02/11/2016 4:10PM

Texas tracks get okay to continue racing until Feb. 29


Chuck Trout, executive director of the Texas Racing Commission, issued a memo to the state's tracks and horsemen's organizations on Thursday informing them live racing and simulcasting can be conducted through at least the close of business on Feb. 29.

The commission has funding for administrative costs approved through that date in a temporary plan, but there was intent to end live racing and simulcasting on Feb. 16  in order to wrap up outstanding business, like the clearing of post-race test samples, by Feb. 29.

“If the commission does not receive additional appropriations or another solution is not found to continue agency operations beyond Feb. 29, I believe that all racing must stop effective March 1, 2016,” Trout wrote in the memo. “The industry should take into consideration that, if the agency closes, it will not thereafter be able to release any purses until and unless it reopens. This is likely to affect any races for which the drug test results have not been reported, which may include any or all live races that take place after Feb. 16.” 

Sam Houston Race Park in Houston is conducting a live Thoroughbred meet that runs into March. Lone Star Park near Dallas opens a Thoroughbred meet in April.

The commission needs the release of additional administrative funds from the state's legislative budget board in order to operate beyond Feb. 29. The funding conflict with some state leaders stems from an August vote by the commission not to repeal rules for historical racing it put in place in 2014. The commission’s adoption of those rules was legally challenged by charitable bingo and tribal interests and a judge ruled the agency did not have the jurisdiction to pass historical racing. The decision has been appealed by some of the state’s tracks and horsemen’s organizations.   

The topic of repealing historical racing was up for another vote at a meeting Tuesday, but a temporary restraining order was presented prohibiting a vote. The 20-day restraining order against the commission was granted to the Texas Greyhound Association. There is a hearing scheduled the morning of Feb. 18.

The commission, meanwhile, has scheduled a meeting for later in the morning Feb. 18. The agenda includes an option to vote on whether to repeal historical racing rules. 

Historical racing machines have never been operational at tracks in Texas.